Christ chose the church as his bride, but perhaps it’s time to take away the microphone from the drunken Best Man

Ephesians: 5: 25-27 

The Genesis Fix.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

The romantic notion that the Church is the bride of Christ has many meanings. As Ephesians states, it is a sanctified relationship, a model for behavior on both a personal and corporate level. 

There’s just one problem with this marriage and its interpretation over the ages. It appears the marriage has been hijacked by people who consider themselves the Best Man. 

You know the type: They get all caught up in the moment and start to think they’re the most important person at the wedding. Then they grab a microphone and start rambling on about their relationship with the groom or whatever and won’t shut up or sit down. Everyone in the room starts to get uncomfortable. The Best Man drones on, bragging about all the things they’ve done together, and this tale or that tale emerges that are more than just a little embarrassing. 

Everyone at the wedding knows the talk has gone on far too long. But wanting to show respect, people hold tight and refuse to interrupt the blathering fool with the microphone. That can only last so long, however. 

Every long wedding talk must come to an end. Sooner or later the power-drunk Best Man has to stand down, stand aside and let the actual marriage begin. 

That’s where we find ourselves in an age when so-called Traditional Christianity is being challenged to give up the microphone and take a seat. The entirely aggressive enterprise of claiming you’re the absolute Best Friend of Jesus and that no one else in the room has a clue what he’s really like has gotten old. Very old. 

Next generation Christians, especially progressive and liberal Christians, are advocating a whole different relationship with Jesus that isn’t based on timeworn tales that miss the nuance of the deeper meaning of the marriage that is true faith. 

Oh sure, the Best Man has his schtick down pat, what with all that patriarchal Guy Talk and Confessional Language designed to make it seem like there’s only one way to be married to Christ in this world. But bragging about the Good Times you’ve had together and the laws you’ve laid down about how to live does not necessarily help the marriage. In fact it leads to unhealthy, unbalanced relationships. 

A real marriage with Christ takes real communication. Real consideration. 

It also means not taking everything in the relationship literally. One could argue that Jesus set the tone for the whole Bride of Christ scenario as he collaborated with his disciples. They were taught to listen and read the nuance and symbolism in his stories. It was not all macho crap and black and white and God Said It So I Believe It. That’s not how Jesus taught at all. If he had agreed with that philosophy he’d never have challenged the religious leaders of his day. They were plenty good at that kind of power-mongering, money-grubbing, Follow the Law kind of religion. Jesus hated that crap. That’s what he came to destroy. 

But it has persisted because people who consider themselves the Best Man always want to grab the microphone and brag about how well they know the Groom (or the bride.) They can’t help themselves and they like to make it sound like there’s no doubt they’re the Best Friend of Jesus. 

Even Jesus must be a little embarrassed and frustrated by now. The habits of his so-called Best Man are nothing like he wants for the marriage between himself and the church. For one thing, the Best Man has always seemed to think that women have no real place of leadership in the church. But women are as important if not more important to the whole of the church than men. 

Jesus also taught that family comes first. But that family was not just conceived as a man and a woman and two kids, as we are so often told to believe by the blathering Best Man.

On many occasions Jesus admonished those around him that family is comprised of those who support each other, who show kindness to strangers and who do not use political or economic divisions to determine who should be considered part of the church. Compare the statements below to the contentions of one who has stood so long at the pulpit damning those who do not hew to conservative tradition, castigating people who do not vote for the Right party or who do not accept a literal interpretation of Scripture espousing patriarchal worldviews and a hatred for modern knowledge, science and social progress on grounds that it corrupts the mind. Jesus did not like that brand of faith…

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.
 
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
 
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”
 
Of course Jesus frequently used hyperbole and parable to make his most urgent points.
 
It’s like he stood before his own wedding and told the Best Man, “Dude, you’re way off base here. Because before you go around calling me your Best Friend you need to know a few things. My marriage is one of equality. My marriage is one of love and acceptance. My marriage does not hew to the Old Stories you like to tell about the Early Days. The Early Days are over, Dude. The New Days are here.” 
 
“Because when I did things and told you stories––Dude––you seem to have missed the point of our relationship entirely. I had to ask my disciples all the time why they didn’t get the meaning of my stories, and you’re no better than them. In fact I would not call you my Best Man at all. Not based on what I’ve heard you say or seen you do. You know, this wedding isn’t about you. It’s about everyone here. The same people you’ve bored with your manic attempt to prove you’re the Best Man are waiting for you to sit the hell down and shut the hell up. Because the existentialists were right about one thing, and you’ve absolutely proven it today. Hell really is Other People. But especially the Best Man who thinks it’s all about Him. Take a seat, Bro, your time’s up.”

It’s Rapture versus Rupture in modern day Christianity

Acts 1:18 –With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.

IMG_5827The Gospel narratives are full of predictions, prophecies (fulfilled and unfulfilled) and warnings against behavior that could lead one away from God. That makes the character known as Judas one of the most interesting, portentous enigmas in all the Bible.

Judas was a close disciple of Jesus. He saw everything his teacher did. He was present for the miracles and witness to the teachings. No doubt he also received admonishment from Jesus when the disciples failed to learn the lessons of spirituality from the parables.

Mark 4:13 shows one of many instances in which Jesus showed concern that his disciples just just didn’t get it. “Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?”

Some people bristle under guidance like that. They don’t like having their intellect questioned, or their belief systems challenged. In fact they often think they have it all figured out.

Yet it appears the disciples struggled to understand the true mission of Jesus on many levels. Acts 6:7 shows them asking questions about what type of kingdom Jesus sought to bring.

Acts 1:6 When they therefore had come together, they asked of Him, saying, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”

Acts 1: 7 And He said unto them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power.”

Statements like that must have really pissed off Judas. Those were desperate times in Israel. Roman occupation was cruel and dismissive of anyone that did not fall in line with worshipping the Emperor and the state. Many in Israel thought there must be a better way. They longed for an earthly king and a nation of their own to rule. They wished a bloodthirsty king like David might return to smite the foe. The entire Book of Revelation is a secretive song of hope for just such a result.

Yet too often the purpose and meaning of Revelation is forgotten. The opening lines of the prophetic book lay it out clearly enough.

Revelation 1:1The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”

It all came true soon enough through Jesus. The Roman empire was ultimately vanquished, much by its own making. Christianity was then adopted as the ruling religion through Constantine. It took a few hundred years or so after the death of Jesus for all that to happen, but in classic style the opportunity for the kingdom of God was opened and revealed, like a seal you might say. And from then on the history of the world has been engaged and determined to some extent by the DNA of Christianity. For better or worse, the Book of Revelation came true.

But again, that’s not how some people see it. Judas was one of those people who wanted instant gratification. He wanted to see the Romans die. He wanted immediate victory over his oppressors. It apparently frustrated him that Jesus was not going to swing the mighty hammer of God and bring it all about.

In his frustration, Judas turned on Jesus and sold him out to some religious leaders who were eager foes of Jesus because he questioned their authority, their methods and their status in society. The Bible lays it out all so clearly, yet it is too easily forgotten today. All four Gospels and the entire Bible provide examples of people whose positions are threatened and are all too willing to take matters into their own hands when the opportunity presents itself.

That was also the case when Judas rolled over for the price of 30 coins and vented his frustration by betraying his teacher and friend. Thanks to Judas, Jesus was taken into custody, turned over to Roman authorities, causelessly judged, flogged and then crucified on a set of timbers with nails driven through his arms and legs. It was an ignominious death.

What happens next in the story of Judas is subject to a degree of interpretation. Some accounts say he hanged himself. The story in Acts suggests another scenario in which Judas purchases a field and in so doing, experiences anguish and stress to the point where he bursts apart, spilling his guts on the ground. It’s not impossible. Gastric distress has been known to cause bowel explosions. 

One might call that the Rupture. It is a symbolically significant but much ignored aspect of scripture. After all, it was Judas that pushed forward on gut instincts to betray Jesus. He wasn’t patient enough to wait around and find out what the entire scenario was supposed to mean. His gut told him that the kingdom he desired was not going to pan out. It pained him at a level of frustration and zealotry that could not be sustained. He couldn’t take the idea that vengeance and victory would not be his. His hated enemies the Romans were not going away any time soon. There would be no immediate war and no blood spilled on behalf of Israel. The Jewish state would not be enacted in his lifetime. In fact the opposite ultimately happened. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. How could that have been part of God’s plan? 

There are similar themes going on in today’s world. Here in the United States we hear frequent claims that America was founded as a Christian nation. Lacking real proof, especially as it was successfully avoided in the drafting and approval of the Constitution, there are many that have endeavored to create a virtual Christian state by enacting laws that impose interpretations of so-called Christian values on the populace. They want a theocracy for America yet hate the notion that certain Muslim sects want to make a caliphate of the world. 

Still others take the prophetic approach. Television ministers like Pat Robertson blame all sorts of social ills on America’s unwillingness to bow before a highly conservative take on what a Christian America should look like. He has gone so far as to blame major weather events on America’s tolerance for homosexuality, or even sexuality in general.

But men like Robertson are little more than modern day version of Judas. One after another these fire and brimstone preachers are exposed for the angry, hypocritical zealots they really are. They seem to implode on the very ground they purchase with their 30 coins. 

One thinks of Jimmy Swaggart, the adulterous liar whose flock trusted his holiness and guidance only to find out he was a corrupt little fraud. People magazine carried this adroit bit of reaction to his downfall. ”I am indignant,” said a 47-year-old woman member of Swaggart’s Assemblies of God Church. “How could he stand up there in the pulpit and preach against adultery and promiscuity when he was doing that kind of thing all this time? I think he ought to stay out of the pulpit.” Angry as she was, she would not give her name, fearful of a fanaticism she’d had no cause to fear before.”

Yet Swaggart eventually swaggered right back into his game because every Judas has his or her fan club. There are plenty of other zealots willing to back the pattern of forcing the hand of God. They want to fix the results just like gamblers like to fix ballgames to guarantee the outcome.

The Republican Party has learned how to leverage all this angst and fury into votes for its candidates. So-called Values Voters fall in line with anyone promising a virtual theocracy in America. That’s also been an ugly scene, with one after another seemingly holy politician turning out to be a Judas in disguise. Sure enough, they’re forced to spill their guts sooner or later when the truth of their adultery, illicit relationships, money-laundering schemes and pay-for-play politics are exposed. Repression is a jealous mistress. The truth comes out sooner or later, rupturing careers and reputations. 

Yet they keep coming, these rapturous defenders of virtue, these zealots of social cues. But they can’t resist taking payment of 30 coins, more or less, from corporations or other big players to gain election. Then they are beholden to moneyed interests for the rest of their political career. It’s no secret that Judas was the keeper of the treasury for the disciples. Yet we all know that the love of money is the root of all evil. Don’t we? 

Judas found that out the hard way when he tried to force God’s hand that you ultimately can’t buy a kingdom here on earth any more than you can buy salvation in the hereafter. The things you find yourself doing to make it all happen are sooner or later revealed, discovered or destined to happen. Judas wanted to be rapturous about the fall of Rome. He didn’t get that. Jesus was bringing about a kingdom of the spirit that would counteract those forces given time. God’s time, that is.

Acts 1: 7 And He said unto them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power.”

All these people longing for the Rapture had better (or best) concern themselves more with the Rupture. Too many Christians are selling themselves out to a forceful brand of faith that is not in line with God’s true plan for the kingdom of the spirit. There is no such thing as Left Behind. There is such a thing as spilling your guts for the wrong reasons. 

So let’s be clear. That kingdom of the spirit is composed of kindness, charity and love. It is not built on politics, power and culture wars based on angry interpretations of the Book of Revelation or any other symbolic text in the Bible. Either alternative of the forceful brand of faith are ugly and painful. Rapture or Rupture are essentially one and the same. 

Now let’s hear the Rapture people spill their guts about this one.

Coming to grips with life in the aggregate

By Christopher Cudworth

A closeup of an aggregate substance.

A closeup of an aggregate substance.

People of faith are accustomed to thinking of their God as their Rock, the solid foundation of their being. 

However so much of the world exists in aggregate that to appreciate its complexity requires a bit more thought to appreciate. 

Bending down to examine some concrete or asphalt along a public street, one finds our highways are not in fact solid in construction. Millions upon millions of smaller rocks are fused together to form the path on which we trod, ride, run or drive. We mash these pieces together to create a greater whole. Then we use oil and other binding material in hopes that our roads will last a long while. 

But of course they deteriorate eventually. Come apart. Get potholes. Everything made by the human race seems destined to such a fate.

Yet so, it turns out, is everything made by God. The earth and all of the universe is in a constant change of decomposition, change and reformation. Even the mighty mountains and largest rocks in the world eventually turn into sand. 

Some people believe that is the only direction in which change can move, toward destruction. Their worldview sees a perfect beginning and from there, the inevitable charge toward the end of all things and all time. They cannot imagine and choose not to believe that life could have come forward out of chaos. They demand the inference of a creator, a designer, a being that produced all beings. 

There is no lack of evidence. That could be true. But there is no proof. So we must explain it some other way, in practical terms, so that we can be good stewards of all that we survey here on earth. And that is where an appreciation for the aggregate must enter the picture. 

Our role in the aggregate

As one of the so-called higher life forms on earth, human beings play an important role in interpreting the past and determining the future of the planet.

At the most foundational level in terms of human behavior, people of faith consider our souls to be an intact part of their being. Yet it is quite hard to argue that our bodies, the temple for the spirit, are and were not assembled through an aggregation of cellular activity. We depend on DNA and an incredibly fine-tuned yet chaotic universe to contribute the materials from which we are made. It all gets organized through chemical reactions and what we call fertile conditions for life. We evolved from those conditions. They do not randomly happen to support our needs. 

We could not have evolved without oxygen. Life developed in concert with that element and all of life depends on it, with bold exception. Plants reverse the process, taking in carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen vital for all life other life forms. It was a small aggregate that began it all, yet it was an aggregation all the same. One still fills the need of another. 

Dependencies

All aggregations are symbiotic. That is, they depend on each other for survival. The stones that form the foundation for the cement do not hold together without some substrate, Portland cement for example, to bind them together. So it is with all forms of life and all things on earth. The aggregate is the true foundation of all things, which depend on relationships however dead or alive, for survival. 

Even the Bible, the Word of God, is more powerful and strong as an aggregate work of literature than it would be if all its books and words were forced to stand on their own. One cannot comprehend the meaning of Jesus Christ without the aggregate history and acts of his prophetic predecessors. The fact that Christ arrived to bring a new law is only comprehensible if you know the original laws he deigned to improve upon. His arrival was the aggregate of all the prophets and leaders who came before, from Adam and Eve to Abraham to David. All of history is an aggregation of events. We can yank out its parts but to properly understand them we must put them back in place to see how they fit, and where. 

The mark of man is sometimes used to dictate what we should believe about the aggregate.

The mark of man is sometimes used to dictate what we should believe about the aggregate.

The meaning of aggregation

What does it all mean, this aggregation? It means that forcing our imprint upon the cement can only fix a moment in time. It does not define the cement down the street, or anywhere around the world. It can help us understand the influence of man upon a moment, but it does not deliver any ultimatums. Even the 10 Commandments for all their reach and grasp in human values are not absolute. We still need to consider their meaning, measure their purpose and implement them in our lives. 

We know the difference between Thou Shalt Not Kill yet when wars come around, we find justice in the killing. 

We struggle knowing that the bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil, yet when used for charity or grace, money can be the greatest expression of love that there is. 

And when we hear people say that the world was created in seven days, it is tempting to think that those seven days were similar to the length of the days we now know. Yet the bible also uses the terms “day” and “ages” to loosely describe the aggregate sense that a day as we conceive it can also be an expression of awareness, not just a literal 24. When we describe ourselves as having embarked on a “new day” we certainly do not hope for a mere 24 hours of revelation or enlightenment. We hope our new day lasts forever. And ever. And ever. 

All of time and being and evolution are an aggregate expression of all that went before. And all that will be. What pain the Lord himself must feel when we do not attempt to understand these things as the whole of creation and limit ourselves to a surface take on what lies before us. 

Even the scales that form the pattern on a butterflies wings function as an aggregate, evolved through time to deliver a broad range of benefits from camouflage to sexual expression to protection from the elements. An aggregate creature.

Even the scales that form the pattern on a butterflies wings function as an aggregate, evolved through time to deliver a broad range of benefits from camouflage to sexual expression to protection from the elements. An aggregate creature.

The aggregate shared

We have evolved as individuals, yet composed of many aggregate organs and body parts whose development was forged in earlier iterations, our ancestors. We share our DNA with all living things on earth. Some more than others, but that is to be expected. They are simply different aggregates, evolved to perform different functions in the great aggregation that is nature. Many have also been lost to time. 99% of all forms of living things that once existed are now extinct. We still see that happening today. We see evidence of the past in the aggregate fossils found on the surface and deep within the layers of the earth. Sedimentary rock forms so much of the earth’s crust, formed by ancient seas and the massive depositions of life that turned into little more than mere patterns in the rock. But what a story they tell. 

To put a fine and human line on all this aggregation, and its role for people of faith, there is even a direct relationship between the words aggregation and congregation. The body of Christ, as expressed through the church, is most certainly an aggregate. We are all fused together as part of that body. It holds together so long as the cement of our being, that is love, is kept intact. 

Minus that binding element, the aggregate dissolves. Fraught by infighting, jealousy and fractional power-mongering, even the aggregate body of Christ will dissolve in time. 

Whether you are on the side of the aggregate or trying to force some wedge into the body of Christ with literal force and fearful desires for wealth or power is something everyone has to determine for themselves. The evidence of these divides is all around us. Whose side are you on, upholding the aggregate or splitting the perceived rock of your salvation for your own benefit? 

The Genesis Fix.

The Genesis Fix. A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age. 

Who needs Left Behind when Right Behind is the more accurate theology?

IMG_8605If you’re familiar with Left Behind series of books authored by Tim LaHaye and Jeremy B. Jenkins, then you likely know there is a new movie coming out in theaters starring Nicholas Cage. In movie parlance having Nick Cage star in your movie is an opportunity to give real credibility to the story you are trying to tell. Or sell. 

The plot line of the new movie according to imbd.com goes like this: “A small group of survivors are left behind after millions of people suddenly vanish and the world is plunged into chaos and destruction.”

Interesting the generic description makes no mention of the notion that God is the destructive force behind the chaos. It also avoids mentioning the fact that the entire notion of the Rapture upon which the movie is founded was fabricated in the 1830s to give the Bible a more actionable relevancy at the dawn of an era when science would soon explain the very origins of life. It was both a fearful attempt at garnering followers that was simultaneously based on fear as it attractive feature.  

So the books and movies upon which the Left Behind series are based depend on a worldview conceived in the mid-1800s, and it hasn’t advanced one bit. Nor does it seem concerned with how it openly deceives people with its falsehoods based on highly literal interpretations of obviously symbolic imagery, a patent hunger for sensationalism and a myopic stance on the role of religion or Christ in history. It simply wants to sell itself off as the truth. 

The entire Left Behind series was contrived to market a competing worldview to that founded on science, humanism or even a rational Christianity. But we must be cognizant of the fact that the Rapture was an emotional concoction dreamed up to make the Bible a more scary and interesting book, thus creating converts. 

Here’s how the website Stormloader described the whole Rapture enterprise and its beginnings: 

“The theory of the rapture began in the early 1830s. It was invented by Margaret MacDonald of Scotland and promoted by Edward Irving. Margaret claimed to have had visions of the second and third coming of Christ. Irving, a Presbyterian preacher, promoted the idea that there was to be a restoration of spiritual gifts before Christ’s return. It was at that time, the 1830s and 1840s, when he expected Christ’s return to take place. The date for Christ’s return was set for 1844. The year came and Christ did not return. Nevertheless, many continued to follow the leadership of Irving. He emphasized the tongues (speaking in…) gift. This was not the genuine tongues of the Acts of the Apostles, but the phony tongues of speaking gibberish and claiming it to be a gift from God. The Presbyterian Church kicks him out as his movement began to slide into high gear.”

Since that period in the 1800s when the so-called Rapture was invented, there have been numerous attempts to cobble together similar scriptural narratives using both literal and highly fantastical elements of the Bible to predict the Second Coming. All of these efforts have failed of course.

The most recent high-profile predictions came from Harold Camping, a doomsday minister whose Family Radio talk show featured his threateningly deep voice and a patiently impatient method of teaching and correcting his listeners on scriptural meaning. His predictions that the world would end May 11, 2011 did not come true. The Fox News website describe’s Campings embarrassment and disillusionment when his calculations about the end of the world again failed. 

“Camping’s most widely spread prediction was that the Rapture would happen on May 21, 2011. His independent Christian media empire spent millions of dollars — some of it from donations made by followers who quit their jobs and sold all their possessions– to spread the word on more than 5,000 billboards and 20 RVs plastered with the Judgment Day message.

When the Judgment Day he foresaw did not materialize, the preacher revised his prophecy, saying he had been off by five months. The preacher, who suffered a stroke three weeks after the May prediction failed, said the light dawned on him that instead of the biblical Rapture in which the faithful would be swept up to the heavens, the date had instead been a “spiritual” Judgment Day, which placed the entire world under Christ’s judgment.

But after the cataclysmic event did not occur in October either, Camping acknowledged his apocalyptic prophecy had been wrong and posted a letter on his ministry’s site telling his followers he had no evidence the world would end anytime soon, and wasn’t interested in considering future dates.”

Of course he wasn’t interested in further predictions. Because by then he knew his worldview was false and contrived. He was dead wrong about the entire theology of the rapture and the end of the world. But Camping has been far from alone in being so wrong. Dozens of such predictions have been made over the ages and not one has come even close to being right. Even during turn of the millennium in the year 2000 when the world seemed ripe for a revelatory experience, there seems to have been on important entity that forgot to listen. That would be God, who failed to follow the instructions of all those earthly doomsday prophets and freakazoid survivalists stocking water and freeze-dried food in their basements. 

God seems content to ignore earthly profits as well. Which is why the creator of all things has not kept writers Timothy LaHaye and Jeremy B. Jenkins from leveraging an ugly take on prophetic scripture into millions of dollars in profits from their books and movies about the rapture. 

Frankly it’s not that hard to come up with a rapture narrative. Absent of historical context and its limiting scope, the Book of Revelation and the Book of Daniel and others can be mashed together into a thriller about the end of the world. Never mind that the real purpose of Revelation was to give hope to believers in the face of Roman persecution. But it is also a work of vengeful desires and prayers for deliverance. Hence its appeal to an American society where those two values seem to be everywhere in the politics of the politically conservative voters and believers. 

A broad segment of the evangelical and pentecostal Christian community still seems to view the interpretation of Revelation as the end of the world, and a fitting end to the Bible, itself a highly symbolic (though often literally interpreted) sequence of letters and narratives written to record and describe the faith community that built up around Yeshua, a wandering teacher and prophet whose words and actions inspired descriptions of him as the Son of God. 

When the Jewish man named Yeshua, or Jesus as he is popularly known, was crucified by the Romans for essentially disturbing the peace, the legend and religion that grew up around centered on his position as “The Christ,” the son of God. 

It was hard for many to believe that the son of God could be hung on a cross and bled to death. Yet the religion that grew out of his acts adopted these sacrifices as signs of acceptance and atonement. Christianity lived as an underground movement for quite a while before Rome and then history adopted its tale as encompassed in a carefully rigged book known as the Bible as doctrine. 

We use the term “rigged” intentionally, because there were competing versions of the Christian intent and purpose. These were ultimate quelled and culled from the Canon, but not the book Revelation. It was far too useful and fanatic a book to discard along with other mystic visions of life with Jesus and life beyond this earth. 

As time wore on, the context of Revelation was lost. Its angry accusations toward Rome and predictions that all hell would break loose for barbarians, whores and lustful emperors came to be regarded as something else entirely. The allusions and shared allegories for destruction were wrapped together with the Book of Daniel, from whom it inherited equal parts anger and hope for deliverance, to make a supposed whole. 

The idea that the Bible somehow works like tarot cards, or like a palm reader or an astrologist is so invited to some people that they actually buy into belief systems such as those advocated by End Times Theology or the Left Behind series. What makes this even more sad and distracting is the vengefulness of the narratives contained in these books and the movies that stem from them.

Why do so-called Christians not call the authors into accountability for the false and even evil nature of End Times theology? Because something in it truly appeals to the certainty they require of their religion. Everyone wants to find a certain thing when they wrestle with the notion of faith and God and salvation. The aggressively righteous always seem to gravitate to religion that delivers a notion of victory.

Yet it was Jesus who seemingly lost, big time, when he was crucified. HIs own disciples were distraught and even angry at this notion when he predicted it. Then he was mocked by those who made fun of the fact that he was labeled a king.

The real focus of faith should be centered not on the Left Behind series, which celebrates a violent end to the ages. Instead we should be centered on the notion that someone is Right Behind us, and it happens to be the person we most seek to follow. That is Yeshua. Jesus, the Jew that transcended the laws of the Jews with a new law, one of tolerance, love and mercy. A love that is a guide for all our actions if we have enough common sense to listen to the voice behind us, urging us onward, to do good, love well and to seek or offer forgiveness.

Yes, that love that comes with responsibility and commitment and acknowledgement of grace. But consider what this wonderful verse from Isaiah 30:21 has to say about the type of certainty we can gain from a faith that is focused on Right Behind rather than Left Behind. 

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

It’s actually Open Carry they’re really after

By Christopher Cudworth

National approval for Open Carry is next on the agenda of the American gun lobby. Wait and see.

National approval for Open Carry is next on the agenda of the American gun lobby. Wait and see.

I saw another sign banning Concealed Carry the other day. It was posted on some street barriers in anticipation of Cruise Night at a nearby town. You know the sign: A picture of a handgun with a red circle and a slash through it. 

Right now it is legal for some organizations to post one of those signs. If you run a church or conduct a community event where weapons might not be welcome, you can request or demand the right to ban weapons on the site. 

This must rankle all those people who think Concealed Carry is the answer to all our social problems. After all, the laws passed in all 50 states are supposed to guarantee the legal right to pack heat, right? What’s the real point of banning guns anywhere? If you can’t take your handgun into church and someone decides to shoot the place up, how are you going to defend yourself? 

False Premises

That’s the premise of Concealed Carry. The idea that other people might be legally carrying weapons is supposed to be a deterrent to criminals who might otherwise choose to pull guns and open fire. 

Only deterrence is just an imagined protection. There’s no real proof that the idea of other people carrying guns is any real deterrent to people angry enough or bored enough or frustrated enough to pull out guns and start shooting at people in public places.

False Logic

The supposed logic of so-called Concealed Carry doesn’t bear out at any level. Let’s face it: the only real deterrent to anyone about to shoot up society is another person with a weapon openly displayed and aimed at their head. 

thSo thinking it all through, it’s actually Open Carry the gun lobby is really after. Concealed Carry was just a stepping stone Open Carry becoming the norm in society. We’ve already seen gun-obsessed people strolling through towns and cities with rifles over their shoulders, daring anyone to protest their presence. 

Fantasies and Delusions

Open Carry is what they really want. It’s time to force the gun lobby to admit it. Concealed Carry is no real deterrent to illegal use of weapons. Only Open Carry can do that. Otherwise the shooter figures they can outdraw anyone in a gunfight. That’s what the Hollywood movies and all those hardass gun instructors like to teach. Shoot first and best and you survive.  

It’s all based on fantasies and delusions. Everyone figures they’re a faster gun and better aim than everyone else. It’s like the opposite of winning the lottery. With Concealed Carry, the odds of being shot are growing bigger every day. It’s a fascinating phenomenon, and the fact that more civilian Americans have died from gun violence than all the American soldiers that have died in foreign wars is no deterrent to the gun lobby. They just want more, more, more. 

Stand Your Ground Foolishness

Along with Concealed Carry, the worst news for people who appreciate freedom from violence has been the invention of the Stand Your Ground laws. Such laws were supposedly created to give people protection with the right to “defend” themselves in situations where they feel threatened. But guess what? Stand Your Ground laws are proving to be a bad, bad idea. Studies by the American Bar Association have shown that Stand Your Ground laws actually result in an increase in homicides rather than a decrease in gun violence. The American Bar Association report recommends the laws be revised or in some case repealed as a result. 

An article about the report in the Lansing (MI) News states the following: “The task force also suggests that the laws (SYG) only apply if the aggressor shows a weapon before deadly force is used, and recommends that judges give juries more detailed instructions on when a “stand your ground” claim can be used.”

Now a normal person would read that paragraph and say “Good, they’re going to roll back the Stand Your Ground laws because it promotes gunfights.” 

But a gun advocate will likely look at that statement and determine that the better solution is to remove all need to conceal weapons. Let Open Carry be the rule of the day and criminals will really be deterred from attacking. 

Except continuing escalation in the militarization of society is turning the process of enforcing the law from a police action to a military strike against those trying to outgun them. 

The comments on the Lansing News website led off with this insightful screed (sic): 

Taxburdened20111 hour ago

 
“Obviously an article written by a progressive.  The right to own weapons is guarenteed by the 2nd Amendment, quit trying to change our right to own weapons and to change the constitution to your ideolical views, just for once, will you?????  Doubt it, but I still comment on it!  Only the criminal will subvert this right by not owning a weapon legally.  Most, if not all non-criminals will own a weapon legally and registered.  We have nothing to hide, all we want is something to protect ourselves from idiots like yourself who happen to to want to take our right away Mr. Brian Smith! Is that your purpose in this article Mr. Smith???
 
All told, the process of the militarization of society is a self-fulfilling prophecy for people so afraid of government and society in general that they believe the government is trying to take away their guns and their rights. But when even the police feel like they have to act like an army to keep society under control, the idea of a “well-regulated militia” as proposed in the Second Amendment has been outstripped by the selfish interpretation that gun rights are absolute, literal and untouchable.
 
Open Carry is next
 
Watch and wait. It will probably be just a matter of weeks before Open Carry legislation is introduced at a national level. The timing is just about right, with November elections coming around the corner. Probably Congress will throw a bill like that into the hopper, forcing Democrats who vote against it to go on record. There’s precedent for Open Carry at the state level. Organizations such as Opencarrytexas.org are already on the case. 
 
It’s a sad case, mostly, with people dying every day from gun violence, and gun advocates insisting that the only way to stop gun violence is to hand out more guns and brandish them like cowboys in the streets.
 
It’s been said that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Only it’s much worse than that when it comes to guns in America. The escalation of gun weaponry and accessibility of military-grade guns in the United States is not just insane, it is politically criminal and the absolute result of misinterpreting the Second Amendment to mean that “well-regulated” means no regulations at all.
 
If we had followed the same logic with environmental protection rivers in American would be on fire these days as they were in the 1970s. But we developed some common sense and the EPA has protected us from far worse consequences. 
 
So you can see the comparative paradigm at work here. We’re at a critical point in the gun debate where more powerful weapons is having a toxic effect on society and yet the gun lobby cries wolf in trying to tell us it’s not that bad, and that more guns is the price of progress in a civilized society. 
 
Except it’s really uncivilized, what they keep proposing. The insane logic never ends with these people. It never, ever, ends. 
 
 

The interesting case of James Brady and the conservative lust for guns

FlagWaiverThe Chicago Tribune carried a thoughtful obituary about James Brady, America’s leading proponent for gun regulation and control.

While people may be nominally aware of the so-called Brady Bill passed in 1993 that requires federal background checks for gun buyers, it is worth reviewing the context of who James Brady was, and why he came to be a leading proponent of gun control. According to the Chicago Tribune article, the Brady Bill as it came to be known has blocked about 2 million gun purchases by people who did not meet the requirements of gun ownership due to criminal or mental health records.

The idea that an official serving a key role under a Republican administration could turn out to be a leading gun control advocate almost seems impossible today. These days so many GOP candidates and politicians stand behind the NRA and its position of less gun regulation it is hard to conceive of a Republican official actually lobbying for better gun control laws.

And James Brady served as Press Secretary under none other than President Ronald Reagan, still the standard-bearer for so-called modern conservatism. But therein lies just one of the oxymorons in conservative positions on gun control.

Brady was shot while trying to protect Ronald Reagan from the criminally insane efforts by John Hinckley, Jr. to assassinate the President of the United States. We can all be thankful his efforts were not successful. Certainly conservatives must be happy and proud their President pulled through despite a collapsed lung suffered during the shooting.

Brady was not so lucky. His brain was affected by the shooting. He was partially paralyzed and used a wheelchair the rest of his life. But Brady decided to do something about his lot by using his position as a former top official in the Reagan administration and the notoriety it brought to advocate for better protections against people who want to use guns for the wrong purpose.

Of course we might find that ironic on a number of fronts. So many guns get used for the wrong purpose it far overwhelms the practices claimed by law-abiding gun owners seeking use of guns for self-protection, sport or hunting.

The trouble with all that supposed rightful use of guns is that it only takes a moment’s notice or a bad decision for a gun owner to allow rage or bad judgment or a sudden killer instinct to turn a gun into a murderous instrument.

And after all, guns were designed to kill. In that context they run afoul of all manner of human social values including those laid out in the Christian Bible, where one of the 10 Commandments states “Thou Shalt Not Kill.”

That means anything that makes killing easier to accomplish is an accomplice in the process of murder or even the threat of violence. The relationship between envisioning the crime and actually doing it has a solid biblical history.

The book of Matthew quotes Jesus this way (KJV) : “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”Insecurity and selfishness are just some of the reasons why people commit adultery. Personal desires or lack of self esteem, even jealousy can drive a person to adultery.

The same holds true for gun crimes. The weakness of flesh and spirit that lead to the act of adultery can also lead to acts of anger, frustration or selfish aims (no pun intended) as expressed through gun violence.

How is it that we fail to appreciate that guns are a form of bloodlust? The adultery of guns is murder, for they act as an expression of intent.

That’s what Brady in part sought to recognize and express through his advocacy for gun laws to kept weapons out of the hands of criminals. His particular story was compelling, yet the very party for which he served in politics turned away from his message because it conflicted with the tools so many conservative politicians used to get elected. Side with looser gun rights and you get votes. It’s that plain and simple.

But it is not necessarily more moral or in keeping with the actual purpose and meaning of the United States Constitution. It’s too easy to throw values like freedom and personal autonomy together with so-called conservative Christian priorities like family and church and call them the same thing. If they seem to fit together somehow, who are we to deny that?

There are several problems with this philosophy and approach. For one thing, blithe approval of gun rights ignores the famous or infamous (depending on your perspective) biblical advice to turn the other cheek. Yet the Bible is multiply clear on the subject. Luke 29: “And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.”

So much for using guns in self defense, people. The whole intent of scripture is to live spiritually, not using murderous tools to impose your world view on the populace or the government that represents your interests.

See, there really is nothing conservative about loose gun laws at all. James Brady grew to recognize this when he was shot by a gunman. Brady’s own recollection of the event was something he actually tried to suppress. “I’ve worked very hard at forgetting as much about that as I possibly can,” he said. “But I’ve not been able to do it.”

The whole enterprise of aggressive gun advocacy is not founded on personal pain of the type James Brady experienced. Nor are liberal gun laws a Christian concept as some might have you believe.

The real reason American gun laws are so lax these days is that we left common sense behind in pursuit of some falsely conceived ideal. That is a radical way to proceed, and it has killed more people on American soil than all the soldiers ever killed in wars on foreign soil.

As James Brady tried so hard to express in his lifetime, we’re at war with ourselves over common sense and virtues. After all, Brady was shot even with the world’s leading Secret Service and trained gunman to protect the President’s entourage. You could have thrown a barrel full of guns on the street and it would not have stopped John Hinckley. Nor will it stop the continuous stream of shooters murdering innocent Americans in theaters, schools and shopping malls.

Like the adulterer that imagines lust in their head before committing the act, guns draw people into a lust for mindless action. It’s in their design.

James Brady recognized that. Let us hope his life continues to point out that fact.

 

Are you so dull? Not on your life

DSCN1904The manner in which Jesus conveyed important facts about the nature of God’s Kingdom was apparently, or at least sometimes lost even on his own disciples. His parables used a rich mix of natural symbolism to convey spiritual principles. His purpose in this teaching method was to make it possible for people with little formal training in theology to grasp the perspectives of God.

With his disciples in tow and in regular witness to his miraculous abilities, Jesus used his ministry to build them up to do his work after he left this earth in bodily form. But true to human nature, his disciples did struggle to grasp the meaning of his parables.

The Bible does not shy from sharing this harsh fact with its readers. There is a purpose to this. In many ways the illuminating statement in Matthew 15:16 helps us recognize in ourselves the difficulties the disciples sometimes had in understanding their teacher’s message. The New International Version depicts Jesus harshly questioning their very ability to be his disciples if they cannot comprehend his method of teaching.

New International Version
“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them.

He’s pretty rough on them.

The New Living Translation goes a little easier on the disciples, depicting a Christ eager to teach and somewhat impatient in dealing with disciples.

New Living Translation
“Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked.

The English Standard Version compares the disciples to the people at large or first experiencing his message.

English Standard Version
And he said, “Are you also still without understanding?

The same goes with the New American Standard translation. Jesus takes his disciples to task for being slow on the uptake. The King James translation is much similar.

New American Standard Bible
Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also?

King James Bible
And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?

Consider the urgency of the Holman Christian Standard Bible a challenge to us all. After all, we’ve had 2000 years or so to get a grip that the symbolism Jesus used to convey spiritual principles was not meant to be taken literally nor left on the table to fend for itself in conveying the urgent matter of reaching the Kingdom of God:

Holman Christian Standard Bible
“Are even you still lacking in understanding?” He asked.

Then we encounter the abrupt take of the International Standard Version and the NET Bible, both of which throw a direct slam at the disciples.

International Standard Version
Jesus said, “Are you still so ignorant?

NET Bible
Jesus said, “Even after all this, are you still so foolish?

It comes down to this: No matter what translation you choose, the bible is clear in showing that Jesus expects a bit more from his disciples, and all of us, than short-sighted, lazy thinking. It’s clearly not enough to state that “God said it, and I believe it.” Jesus did not allow that brand of thinking in his disciples, and it certainly is no more valued as a mode of thinking today.

Think about that next time you hear someone claiming the earth was created in 7 literal days, or trying to turn their interpretation of scripture into the law of the nation. Jesus did not tolerate those methods in his closest advisors or the enemies of the kingdom of God.

All those who failed to grasp the true message of God were called to account. Do you want to be one of the people who through false-minded zealotry or an aggressive desire fro control and power turn the message of Christ into something that it wasn’t meant to be?

Not on your life.